Eight former Labour councillors who have left the party of over the party's official stance on the Gaza conflict have formed a new group on Blackburn with Darwen Council.

They have created the '4BwD Independent Group', but have no intention of standing down from their seats on the authority to fight by-elections, despite no longer being members of the party they were elected to represent.

Seven of the councillors - Salim Sidat, Suleman Khonat, Adbul Patel, Mustafa Desai, Saj Ali, Samim Desai and Salma Patel - resigned from the Labour Party saying they could not support the party due to its official stance calling for humanitarian pauses as opposed to a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

They have been joined by former Tory Cllr Altaf 'Tiger' Patel who quit the Conservative Party for similar reasons, and Cllr Mohammed Irfan, who resigned from the party after being suspended over a social media post in which he asked whether the Pakistani Army ‘could join the war to help Palestine’.

Veteran Labour politician Cllr Hussain Akhtar continues to sit as an Independent on Blackburn with Darwen Council after standing aside from the party while his court case over alleged fly-tipping is dealt with.

Labour remains in control of Blackburn with Darwen Council with 30 members to the opposition's 20 - 11 Conservatives, nine 4BwD and Cllr Akhtar.

The Blackburn with Darwen move follows 11 Burnley Labour councillors - including group leader Cllr Afraisiab Anwar - quitting Labour to form the Burnley Independent Group and forming a coalition with the Greens and Liberal Democrats to run the authority.

The creation of the new political groupings will make it difficult for the rebel councillors to rejoin Labour in the future under party rules.

Cllr Desai, leader of the 4BwD Independent Group, said: "We have stepped down from the Labour party as we felt the stance the Labour party leadership have adopted does not align with our core humanitarian values.

"We tried tirelessly both in an individual capacity and collectively to pressure the leadership into changing the stance and call for an immediate ceasefire in order to put an end to loss of innocent lives on both sides.

"Sadly the party leadership were unwilling to listen thus making our positions untenable.

"We have stepped down as Labour councillors and cancelled our Labour party membership.

"We have formed a local independent group, '4BwD Independent Group'.

"We do not have any political affiliation and we will collectively endeavour to continue representing our respective wards and working for the people of the borough.

"By not having a political affiliation, we will have the opportunity and the autonomy to both challenge and/or support policies and decisions that impact the people of the borough.

"We do not indent to resign our seats on the council.

"There will be an element of core party votes however I do feel majority of the electorate do also consider the candidate and their ability to represent.

"Local issues for which we were elected remain the same and we will continue to support the people of our respective wards."

Cllr Phil Riley, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council's ruling Labour group, said: "None of us were elected because of our ability to resolve international disputes.

"Personally I feel that it is bad practice to resign over issues over which we have absolutely no control.

"Having said that, we will all now move on and the Labour group will continue to do what the have been elected to do - which is try in very difficult financial circumstances to provide the services which we know the people of Blackburn with Darwen want and need."

The creation of the new 4BwD group will now be rubber stamped at the authority's Policy Council on Thursday next week when it will be awarded 14 committee places.

Borough Conservative leader Cllr John Slater said: "Obviously they are acting on the feelings of the people they represent and feel very strongly about it. It is entirely a matter for them."